“The world is hard, the world is mean
It’s hard to keep your conscience clean”
I hadn’t listened to Love Never Dies since seeing its very first preview (oh how we laughed when ALW ran furious from the stalls when the set broke down) and having popped on the concept album that was released in tandem, I was soon reminded why. The not-a-sequel to Phantom of the Opera too often feels like a lazy retread of familiar ground, demonstrating zero musical progression and revealing a stagnation where there once was innovation.
The Coney Island setting undercuts any attempt to get close to the gothic horror of the opera house, the ‘freak show’ elements are desperately tame there. The swerves into rock are ill-advised in the extreme. Lyrically, there’s no ingenuity here at all, the words play second fiddle to the music to their peril And above all, the interpolation of themes from Phantom serve as a constant reminder of what this is not, and also the ultimate folly of the enterprise.
There’s a strange imbalance to the writing, that pushes the female characters to one side. So having saddled Sierra Boggess’ Christine with a rewritten song from The Beautiful Game as the title track, the maestro doesn’t give her much else of memorable interest to do, whilst the book simultaneously robs the character of any real agency. Same with Mme Giry, sung here by Sally Dexter though played by Liz Robertson onstage, a great talent sorely underused.
The focus is squarely on the men and Lord knows Ramin Karimloo has the physique to cope with it. Sad truth is though, that there’s a large amount of bluster and not much ballast to what he has to sing (once more). He’s a mighty singer but these are substandard goods. Love Never Dies has been substantially tinkered with since I saw it, and since this recording was made, but it is hard not to feel that its problems are of a more existential nature.